Policy Advisor Programme

The Ministry has established a Policy Advisor (POLAD) programme designed to embed civilian expertise across the operational lifecycle, as well as providing policy advice and input to commanders at the tactical and operational level.

This programme supports greater policy-military integration, as recommended by the report of the Expert Review Group conducted following the Government Inquiry into Operation Burnham and Related Matters.

A POLAD has several functions:

  • To advise deployed defence personnel on broader strategic considerations and matters that may affect New Zealand’s national security and defence policy interests;

  • To support and facilitate defence diplomacy in theatre; and

  • To provide policy input into the planning and monitoring of deployments, including through supporting the assessment and mitigation of risks, threats or issues with broader policy and defence implications.

The first Ministry POLAD was deployed via the programme in August 2021 and it has since evolved to encompass further exercises and trainings to build collective experience and expertise. Examples include:

Solomon Islands 2021

On 1 December 2021, at the request of the Solomon Islands Government and following civil unrest and rioting in Honiara, NZDF and Police personnel deployed to assist in maintaining stability and security in the Pacific Island nation. As part of the mission, a Ministry POLAD deployed alongside their NZDF counterparts.

The New Zealand contingent worked with partner nations including Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji to support the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force in restoring law and order. The POLAD’s role was to provide policy advice to the NZDF Senior National Officer to ensure that decisions made relating to the operational conduct were in alignment with New Zealand Government policy and strategic interests. The position also played a role in supporting engagement between the deployed personnel, New Zealand diplomatic and other agency staff in Honiara, and Defence Headquarters in Wellington.

Exercise Ulchi Freedom Shield 2022

This exercise took place on the Korean Peninsula in August to September 2022. A Ministry POLAD joined six NZDF staff in the United Nations Command’s (UNC) Headquarters during the exercise. Working alongside two international counterparts, our POLAD provided advice to senior coalition leaders, guided on strategic communications and engagements, and challenged assumptions held by coalition military planners to assist the UNC in navigating the exercise.

The POLAD deployed was awarded a commendation for their ‘performance and dedication’.

Exercise Suman Protector 2022

A Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) exercise which took place in Singapore in October 2022. Approximately 280 personnel from Singapore, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand took part in the table top exercise. Our POLAD worked alongside three counterparts from other FPDA nations as part of the Commander’s Advisory Group (CAG). This iteration of Suman Protector was the first ever to contain a CAG, which consisted of a number of specialist roles beyond POLADs, including Legal Advisors, Gender Advisors, and Public Affairs representatives. The Ministry’s POLAD on this exercise worked alongside their CAG colleagues to provide specialist policy advice to the commander of the exercise on key considerations to factor into the military planning process.